Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Israel's Last Journey from Kadesh to the Heights of Pisgah in yhe Fields of Moab - Numbers 20-21
In the first month of the fortieth year, the whole congregation of Israel assembled again at Kadesh, in the desert of Zin, to commence the march to Canaan. In Kadesh, Miriam died (Numbers 20:1), and the people murmured against Moses and Aaron on account of the want of water. The Lord relieved this want, by pouring water from the rock; but Moses sinned on this occasion, so that he was not allowed to enter Canaan (Numbers 20:2-13). From Kadesh, Moses sent messengers to the king of Edom, to ask permission for the Israelites to pass peaceably through his land; but this was refused by the king of Edom (Numbers 20:14-21). In the meantime, the Israelites marched from Kadesh to Mount Hor, on the borders of the land of Edom; and there Aaron died, and Eleazar was invested with the high-priesthood in his stead (Numbers 20:22-29). On this march they were attacked by the Canaanitish king of Arad; but they gained a complete victory, and laid his cities under the ban (Numbers 21:1-3). As the king of Edom opposed their passing through his land, they were compelled to go from Mount Hor to the Red Sea, and round the land of Edom. On the way the murmuring people were bitten by poisonous serpents; but the penitent among them were healed of the bite of the serpent, by looking at the brazen serpent which Moses set up at the command of God (Numbers 21:4-9). After going round the Moabitish mountains, they turned to the north, and went along the eastern side of the Edomitish and Moabitish territory, as far as the Arnon, on the border of the Amoritish kingdom of Sihon, with the intention of going through to the Jordan, and so entering Canaan (Numbers 21:10-20). But as Sihon would not allow the Israelites to pass through his land, and made a hostile demonstration against them, they smote him and conquered his land, and also the northern Amoritish kingdom of Og, king of Bashan (Numbers 21:21-35), and forced their way through the Amoritish territory to the heights of Pisgah, for the purpose of going forward thence into the steppes of Moab by the Jordan (Numbers 22:1). These marches formed the third stage in the guidance of Israel through the desert to Canaan.
Death of Miriam. Water out of the Rock.Refusal of a Passage through Edom. Aaron's Death.Conquest over the King of Arad - Numbers 20-21:3
The events mentioned in the heading, which took place either in Kadesh or on the march thence to the mountain of Hor are grouped together in Numbers 20:1-21:3, rather in a classified order than in one that is strictly chronological. The death of Miriam took place during the time when the people were collected at Kadesh-barnea in the desert of Zin (Numbers 20:21). But when the whole nation assembled together in this desert there was a deficiency of water, which caused the people to murmur against Moses, until God relieved the want by a miracle (Numbers 20:2-13). It was from Kadesh that messengers were sent to the king of Edom (Numbers 20:14.); but instead of waiting at Kadesh till the messengers returned, Moses appears to have proceeded with the people in the meantime into the Arabah. When and where the messengers returned to Moses, we are not informed. So much is certain, however, that the Edomites did not come with an army against the Israelites (Numbers 20:20, Numbers 20:21), until they approached their land with the intention of passing through. For it was in the Arabah, at Mount Hor, that Israel first turned to go round the land of Edom (Numbers 21:4). The attack of the Canaanites of Arad (Numbers 21:1-3) who attempted to prevent the Israelites from advancing into the desert of Zin, occurred in the interval between the departure from Kadesh and the arrival in the Arabah at Mount Hor; so that if a chronological arrangement were adopted, this event would be placed in Numbers 20:22, between the first and second clauses of this verse. The words "and came to Mount Hor" (Numbers 20:22) are anticipatory, and introduce the most important event of all that period, viz., the death of Aaron at Mount Hor (Numbers 20:23-29).
(Note: Even Fries (pp. 53, 54) has admitted that the account in Numbers 21:1; Numbers 33:40, is to be regarded as a rehearsal of an event which took place before the arrival of the Israelites at Mount Hor, and that the conflict with the king of Arad must have occurred immediately upon the advance of Israel into the desert of Zin; and he correctly observes, that the sacred writer has arranged what stood in practical connection with the sin of Moses and Aaron, and the refusal of Edom, in the closest juxtaposition to those events: whereas, after he had once commenced his account of the tragical occurrences in ch. 20, there was no place throughout the whole of that chapter for mentioning the conflict with Arad; and consequently this battle could only find a place in the second line, after the record of the most memorable events which occurred between the death of Miriam and that of Aaron, and to which it was subordinate in actual significance. On the other hand, Fries objects to the arrangement we have adopted above, and supposes that Israel did not go straight from Kadesh through the Wady Murreh into the Arabah, and to the border of the (actual) land of Edom, and then turn back to the Red Sea; but that after the failure of the negotiations with the king of Edom, Moses turned at once from the desert of Zin and plain of Kadesh, and went back in a south-westerly direction to the Hebron road; and having followed this road to Jebel Araif, the south-western corner-pillar of the western Edom, turned at right angles and went by the side of Jebel Mukrah to the Arabah, where he was compelled to alter his course again through meeting with Mount Hor, the border-pillar of Edom at that point, and to go southwards to the Red Sea (pp. 88-9). But although this combination steers clear of the difficulty connected with our assumption, - viz., that when Israel advanced into the Arabah to encamp at Mount Hor, they had actually trodden upon the Edomitish territory in that part of the Arabah which connected the mountain land of Azazimeh, of which the Edomites had taken forcible possession, with their hereditary country, the mountains of Seir, - we cannot regard this view as in harmony with the biblical account. For, apart from the improbability of Moses going a second time to Mount Hor on the border of Edom, after he had been compelled to desist from his advance through the desert of Zin (Wady Murreh), and take a circuitous route, or rather make a retrograde movement, on the western side of the Edomitish territory of the land of Azazimeh, only to be driven back a second time, the account of the contest with the king of Arad is hard to reconcile with this combination. In that case the king of Arad must have attacked or overtaken the Israelites when they were collected together in the desert of Zin at Kadesh. But this does not tally with the words of Numbers 21:1, "When the Canaanite heard that Israel came (was approaching) by the way of the spies;" for if Moses turned round in Kadesh to go down the Hebron road as far as Jebel Araif, in consequence of the refusal of Edom, the Israelites did not take the way of the spies at all, for their way went northwards from Kadesh to Canaan. The supposition of Fries (p. 54), that the words in Numbers 21:1, "came by the way of the spies," are a permutation of those in Numbers 20:1, "came into the desert of Zin," and that the two perfectly coincide as to time, is forced; as the Israelites are described in Numbers 20:1 not only as coming into the desert of Zin in general, but as assembling together there at Kadesh.
Modern critics (Knobel and others) have also mutilated these chapters, and left only Numbers 20:1 (in part,), 2, 6, 22-29, Numbers 21:10-11; Numbers 22:1, as parts of the original work, whilst all the rest is described as a Jehovistic addition, partly from ancient sources and partly from the invention of the Jehovist himself. But the supposed contradiction - viz., that whilst the original work describes the Israelites as going through northern Edom, and going round the Moabitish territory in the more restricted sense, the Jehovist represents them as going round the land of Edom upon the west, south, and east (Numbers 20:21; Numbers 21:4), and also as going round the land of the Arnon in a still larger circle, and past other places as well (Numbers 21:12, Numbers 21:16, Numbers 21:18), - rests upon a false interpretation of the passages in question. The other arguments adduced - viz., the fact that the Jehovist gives great prominence to the hatred of the Edomites (Numbers 20:18, Numbers 20:20) and interweaves poetical sentences (Numbers 21:14, Numbers 21:15, Numbers 21:17, Numbers 21:18, Numbers 21:27, Numbers 21:28), the miraculous rod in Moses' hand (Numbers 20:8), and the etymology (Numbers 21:3), - are all just arguing in a circle, since the supposition that all these things are foreign to the original work, is not a fact demonstrated, but a simple petitio principii.)
Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.Assembling of the Congregation at Kadesh. - In the first month the children of Israel came into the desert of Zin, i.e., in the fortieth year of their wanderings, at the commencement of which "the whole congregation" assembled together once more in the very same place where the sentence had been passed thirty-seven years and a half before, that they should remain in the desert for forty years, until the rebellious generation had died out. The year is not mentioned in Numbers 20:1, but, according to Numbers 14:32., it can only be the year with which the forty years of the sentence that they should die out in the wilderness came to an end, that is to say, the fortieth year of their wandering. This is put beyond all doubt by what follows. For the whole congregation proceeds from Kadesh in the desert of Zin to Mount Hor, where Aaron died, and that, according to Numbers 33:38, in the fifth month of the fortieth year after the exodus from Egypt. Miriam died during the time that the people were staying (ישׁב) in Kadesh, and there she was buried.
And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.Sin of Moses and Aaron at the Water of Strife at Kadesh. - In the arid desert the congregation was in want of water, and the people quarrelled with Moses in consequence. In connection with the first stay in Kadesh there is nothing said about any deficiency of water. But as the name Kadesh embraces a large district of the desert of Zin, and is not confined to one particular spot, there might easily be a want of water in this place or the other. In their faithless discontent, the people wished that they had died when their brethren died before Jehovah. The allusion is not to Korah's company, as Knobel supposes, and the word גּוע, "to expire," would be altogether inapplicable to their destruction; but the reference is to those who had died one by one during the thirty-seven years. "Why," they murmured once more against Moses and Aaron, "have ye brought the congregation of God into this desert, to perish there with their cattle? Why have ye brought it out of Egypt into this evil land, where there is no seed, no fig-trees and pomegranates, no vines, and no water to drink?"
And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!
And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?
And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink.
And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.Moses and Aaron then turned to the tabernacle, to ask for the help of the Lord; and the glory of the Lord immediately appeared (see at Numbers 17:7 and Numbers 14:10).
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,The Lord relieved the want of water. Moses was to take the staff, and with Aaron to gather together the congregation, and speak to the rock before their eyes, when it would give forth water for the congregation and their cattle to drink.
Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.
And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him.Moses then took the rod "from before Jehovah," - i.e., the rod with which he had performed miracles in Egypt (Exodus 17:5), and which was laid up in the sanctuary, not Aaron's rod which blossomed (Numbers 17:10), - and collected the congregation together before the rock, and said to them, "Hear, ye rebels, shall we fetch you water out of this rock?" He then smote the rock twice with his rod, whereupon much water came out, so that the congregation and their cattle had water to drink.
And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?
And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.
And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.The Lord then said to both of them, both Moses and Aaron, "Because ye have not trusted firmly in Me, to sanctify Me before the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them." The want of belief or firm confidence in the Lord, through which both of them had sinned, was not actual unbelief or distrust in the omnipotence and grace of God, as if God could not relieve the want of water or extend His help to the murmuring people; for the Lord had promised His help to Moses, and Moses did what the Lord had commanded him. It was simply the want of full believing confidence, a momentary wavering of that immovable assurance, which the two heads of the nation ought to have shown to the congregation, but did not show. Moses did even more than God had commanded him. Instead of speaking to the rock with the rod of God in his hand, as God directed him, he spoke to the congregation, and in these inconsiderate words, "Shall we fetch you water out of the rock?" words which, if they did not express any doubt in the help of the Lord, were certainly fitted to strengthen the people in their unbelief, and are therefore described in Psalm 106:33 as prating (speaking unadvisedly) with the lips (cf. Leviticus 5:4). He then struck the rock twice with the rod, "as if it depended upon human exertion, and not upon the power of God alone," or as if the promise of God "would not have been fulfilled without all the smiting on his part" (Knobel). In the ill-will expressed in these words the weakness of faith was manifested, by which the faithful servant of God, worn out with the numerous temptations, allowed himself to be overcome, so that he stumbled, and did not sanctify the Lord before the eyes of the people, as he ought to have done. Aaron also wavered along with Moses, inasmuch as he did nothing to prevent Moses' fall. But their sin became a grievous one, from the fact that they acted unworthily of their office. God punished them, therefore, by withdrawing their office from them before they had finished the work entrusted to them. They were not to conduct the congregation into the promised land, and therefore were not to enter in themselves (cf. Numbers 27:12-13; Deuteronomy 32:48.). The rock, from which water issued, is distinguished by the article הסּלע, not as being already known, or mentioned before, but simply as a particular rock in that neighbourhood; though the situation is not described, so as to render it possible to search for it now.
(Note: Moses Nachmanides has given a correct interpretation of the words, "Speak to the rock before their eyes" (Numbers 20:8): viz., "to the first rock in front of them, and standing in their sight." The fable attributed to the Rabbins, viz., that the rock of Rephidim followed the Israelites all about in the desert, and supplied them with water, cannot be proved from the talmudical and rabbinical passages given by Buxtorf (historia Petrae in deserto) in his exercitatt. c. v., but is simply founded upon a literal interpretation of certain rabbinical statements concerning the identity of the well at Rephidim with that at Kadesh, which were evidently intended to be figurative, as Abarbanel expressly affirms (Buxtorf, l. c. pp. 422ff.). "Their true meaning," he says, "was, that those waters which flowed out in Horeb were the gift of God granted to the Israelites, and continued all through the desert, just like the manna. For wherever they went, fountains of living waters were opened to them as the occasion required. And for this reason, the rock in Kadesh was the same rock as that in Horeb. Still less ground is there for supposing that the Apostle Paul alluded to any such rabbinical fable when he said, "They drank of that spiritual rock that followed them" (1 Corinthians 10:4), and gave it a spiritual interpretation in the words, "and that rock was Christ.")
This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them.The account closes with the words, "This is the water of strife, about which the children of Israel strove with Jehovah, and He sanctified Himself on them." This does not imply that the scene of this occurrence received the name of "strife-water," but simply that the water which God brought out of the rock for the Israelites received that name. But God sanctified Himself on them, by the fact that, on the one hand, He put their unbelief to shame by the miraculous gift of water, and on the other hand punished Moses and Aaron for the weakness of their faith.
(Note: The assumption of neological critics, that this occurrence is identical with the similar one at Rephidim (Exodus 17), and that this is only another saga based upon the same event, has no firm ground whatever. The want of water in the arid desert is a fact so constantly attested by travellers, that it would be a matter of great surprise if Israel had only experienced this want, and quarrelled with its God and its leaders, once in the course of forty years. As early as Exodus 15:22. the people murmured because of the want of drinkable water, and the bitter water was turned into sweet; and immediately after the event before us, it gave utterance to the complaint again, "We have no bread and no water" (Numbers 21:4-5). But if the want remained the same, the relief of that want would necessarily be repeated in the same or a similar manner. Moreover, the occurrences at Rephidim (or Massah-Meribah) and at Kadesh are altogether different from each other. In Rephidim, God gave the people water out of the rock, and the murmuring of the people was stayed. In Kadesh, God no doubt relieved the distress in the same way; but the mediators of His mercy, Moses and Aaron, sinned at the time, so that God sanctified Himself upon them by a judgment, because they had not sanctified Him before the congregation. (See Hengstenberg, Dissertations, vol. ii.))
And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us:Message of the Israelites to the King of Edom. - As Israel was about to start from Kadesh upon its march to Canaan, but wished to enter it from the east across the Jordan, and not from the south, where the steep and lofty mountain ranges presented obstacles which would have been difficult to overcome, if not quite insuperable, Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, to solicit from the kindred nation a friendly and unimpeded passage through their land. He reminded the king of the relationship of Israel, of their being brought down to Egypt, of the oppression they had endured there, and their deliverance out of the land, and promised him that they would not pass through fields and vineyards, nor drink the water of their wells, but keep to the king's way, without turning to the right hand or the left, and thus would do no injury whatever to the land (Numbers 20:14-16).
(Note: We learn from Judges 11:17, that Israel sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Moab also, and with a similar commission, and that he also refused to grant the request for an unimpeded passage through his land. This message is passed over in silence here, because the refusal of the Moabites had no influence upon the further progress of the Israelites. "For if they could not pass through Edom, the permission of the Moabites would not help them at all. It was only eventualiter that they sought this permission." - Hengstenberg, Diss.)
By the "angel" who led Israel out of Egypt we are naturally to understand not the pillar of cloud and fire (Knobel), but the angel of the Lord, the visible revealer of the invisible God, whom the messengers describe indefinitely as "an angel," when addressing the Edomites. Kadesh is represented in Numbers 20:16 as a city on the border of the Edomitish territory. The reference is to Kadesh-Barnea (Numbers 32:8; Numbers 34:4; Deuteronomy 1:2, Deuteronomy 1:19; Deuteronomy 2:14; Deuteronomy 9:23; Joshua 10:41; Joshua 14:6-7; Joshua 15:3). This city was no doubt situated quite in the neighbourhood of Ain Kudes, the well of Kadesh, discovered by Rowland. This well was called En-mishpat, the fountain of judgment, in Abraham's time (Genesis 14:7); and the name Kadesh occurs first of all on the first arrival of the Israelites in that region, in the account of the events which took place there, as being the central point of the place of encampment, the "desert of Paran," or "desert of Zin" (cf. Numbers 13:26 with Numbers 13:21, and Numbers 12:16). And even on the second arrival of the congregation in that locality, it is not mentioned till after the desert of Zin (Numbers 20:1); whilst the full name Kadesh-Barnea is used by Moses for the first time in Numbers 32:8, when reminding the people of those mournful occurrences in Kadesh in Numbers 13 and 14. The conjecture is therefore a very natural one, that the place in question received the name of Kadesh first of all from that tragical occurrence (Numbers 14), or possibly from the murmuring of the congregation on account of the want of water, which led Moses and Aaron to sin, so that the Lord sanctified (יקדּשׁ) Himself upon them by a judgment, because they had not sanctified Him before the children of Israel (Numbers 20:12 and Numbers 20:13); that Barnea was the older or original name of the town, which was situated in the neighbourhood of the "water of strife," and that this name was afterwards united with Kadesh, and formed into a composite noun. If this conjecture is a correct one, the name Kadesh is used proleptically, not only in Genesis 14:7, as a more precise definition of En-Mishpat, but also in Genesis 16:14; Genesis 20:1; and Numbers 13:26, and Numbers 20:1; and there is no lack of analogies for this. It is in this too that we are probably to seek for an explanation of the fact, that in the list of stations in Numbers 33 the name Kadesh does not occur in connection with the first arrival of the congregation in the desert of Zin, but only in connection with their second arrival (v. 36), and that the place of encampment on their first arrival is called Rithmah, and not Barnea, because the headquarters of the camp were in the Wady Retemath, not at the town of Barnea, which was farther on in the desert of Zin. The expression "town of the end of thy territory" is not to be understood as signifying that the town belonged to the Edomites, but simply affirms that it was situated on the border of the Edomitish territory. The supposition that Barnea was an Edomitish town is opposed by the circumstance that, in Numbers 34:4, and Joshua 15:3, it is reckoned as part of the land of Canaan; that in Joshua 10:41 it is mentioned as the southernmost town, where Joshua smote the Canaanites and conquered their land; and lastly, that in Joshua 15:23 it is probably classed among the towns allotted to the tribe of Judah, from which it seems to follow that it must have belonged to the Amorites. "The end of the territory" of the king of Edom is to be distinguished from "the territory of the land of Edom" in Numbers 20:23. The land of Edom extended westwards only as far as the Arabah, the low-lying plain, which runs from the southern point of the Dead Sea to the head of the Elanitic Gulf. At that time, however, the Edomites had spread out beyond the Arabah, and taken possession of a portion of the desert of Paran belonging to the peninsula of Sinai, which was bounded on the north by the desert of Zin (see at Numbers 34:3). By their not drinking of the water of the wells (Numbers 20:17), we are to understand, according to Numbers 20:19, their not making use of the wells of the Edomites either by violence or without compensation. The "king's way" is the public high road, which was probably made at the cost of the state, and kept up for the king and his armies to travel upon, and is synonymous with the "sultan-road" (Derb es Sultan) or "emperor road," as the open, broad, old military roads are still called in the East (cf. Robinson, Pal. ii. 340; Seetzen, i. pp. 61, 132, ii. pp. 336, etc.).
This military road led, no doubt, as Leake has conjectured (Burckhardt, Syr. pp. 21, 22), through the broad Wady el Ghuweir, which not only forms a direct and easy passage to the level country through the very steep mountains that fall down into the Arabah, but also a convenient road through the land of Edom (Robinson, ii. pp. 552, 583, 610), and is celebrated for its splendid meadows, which are traceable to its many springs (Burckhardt, pp. 688, 689); for the broad Wady Murreh runs from the northern border of the mountain-land of Azazimeh, not only as far as the mountain of Moddera (Madurah), where it is divided, but in its southern half as far as the Arabah. This is very likely the "great route through broad wadys," which the Bedouins who accompanied Rowland assured him "was very good, and led direct to Mount Hor, but with which no European traveller was acquainted" (Ritter's Erdk. xiv. p. 1088). It probably opens into the Arabah at the Wady el Weibeh, opposite to the Wady Ghuweir.
How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers:
And when we cried unto the LORD, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border:
Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king's high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders.
And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.The Edomites refused the visit of the Israelites in a most unbrotherly manner, and threatened to come out against them with the sword, without paying the least attention to the repeated assurance of the Israelitish messengers, that they would only march upon the high road, and would pay for water for themselves and their cattle. אין־דּבר רק, lit., "it is nothing at all; I will go through with my feet:" i.e., we want no great thing; we will only make use of the high road.
And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing any thing else, go through on my feet.
And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand.To give emphasis to his refusal, Edom went against Israel "with much people and with a strong hand," sc., when they approached its borders. This statement, as well as the one in Numbers 20:21, that Israel turned away before Edom, anticipates the historical order; for, as a matter of course, the Edomites cannot have come at once with an army on the track of the messengers, for the purpose of blocking up the road through the Wady Murreh, which runs along the border of its territory to the west of the Arabah.
Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him.
And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto mount Hor.Death of Aaron at Mount Hor. - The Israelites left Kadesh, and passed along the road just mentioned to Mount Hor. This mountain, which was situated, according to Numbers 33:37, on the border of the land of Edom, is placed by Josephus (Ant. iv. 4, 7) in the neighbourhood of Petra; so also by Eusebius and Jerome: "Or mons, in quo mortuus est Aaron, juxta civitatem Petram." According to modern travellers, it is Mount Harun, on the north-western side of Wady Musa (Petra), which is described by Robinson (vol. ii. p. 508) as "a cone irregularly truncated, having three ragged points or peaks, of which that upon the north-east is the highest, and has upon it the Muhammedan Wely, or tomb of Aaron," from which the mountain has received its name "Harun," i.e., Aaron (vid., Burckhardt, Syr. pp. 715, 716; v. Schubert, Reise, ii. pp. 419ff.; Ritter, Erdkunde, xiv. pp. 1127ff.). There can be no doubt as to the general correctness of this tradition;
(Note: There is no force whatever in the arguments by which Knobel has endeavoured to prove that it is incorrect. The first objection, viz., that the Hebrews reached Mount Hor from Kadesh in a single march, has no foundation in the biblical text, and cannot be inferred from the circumstance that there is no place of encampment mentioned between Kadesh and Mount Hor; for, on the one hand, we may clearly see, not only from Numbers 21:10, but even from Exodus 17:1, as compared with Numbers 33:41. and Numbers 33:12., that only those places of encampment are mentioned in the historical account where events occurred that were worthy of narrating; and, on the other hand, it is evident from Numbers 10:33, that the Israelites sometimes continued marching for several days before they formed an encampment again. The second objection - viz., that if Hor was near Petra, it is impossible to see how the advance of the Hebrews from Kadesh to Hor could be regarded by the king of Arad, who lived more than thirty hours' journey to the north, as coming (Numbers 33:40), not to mention "coming by the way of the spies" (Numbers 21:1), and how this king could come into conflict with the Hebrews when posted at Petra - rests upon the erroneous assumption, that the attack of the king of Arad did not take place till after the death of Aaron, because it is not mentioned till afterwards. Lastly, the third objection - viz., that a march from Kadesh in a south-westerly direction to Wady Musa, and then northwards past Zalmona to Phunon (Numbers 33:41), is much too adventurous - is overthrown by Numbers 21:4, where the Israelites are said to have gone from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea. (See the notes on Numbers 21:10.))
for even if the Mohammedan tradition concerning Aaron's grave is not well accredited, the situation of this mountain is in perfect harmony with the statement in Numbers 20:23 and Numbers 33:37, viz., that the Israelites had then reached the border of the land of Edom. The place where the people encamped is called Mosera in Deuteronomy 10:6, and Moseroth in the list of stations in Numbers 33:30, and is at all events to be sought for in the Arabah, in the neighbourhood of Mount Hor, though it is altogether unknown to us. The camp of 600,000 men, with their wives, children, and flocks, would certainly require a space miles wide, and might therefore easily stretch from the mouths of the Wady el Weibeh and Wady Ghuweir, in the Arabah, to the neighbourhood of Mount Harun. The place of encampment is called after this mountain, Hor, both here and in Numbers 33:37., because it was there that Aaron died and was buried. The Lord foretold his death to Moses, and directed him to take off Aaron's priestly robes, and put them upon Eleazar his son, as Aaron was not to enter the promised land, because they (Aaron and Moses) had opposed the command of Jehovah at the water of strife (see at Numbers 20:12). "Gathered to his people," like the patriarchs (Genesis 25:8, Genesis 25:17; Genesis 35:29; Genesis 49:33).
And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying,
Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah.
Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor:
And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there.
And Moses did as the LORD commanded: and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation.Moses executed this command, and Aaron died upon the top of the mountain, according to Numbers 33:37-38, on the first day of the fifth month, in the fortieth year after the exodus from Egypt, at the age of 123 years (which agrees with Exodus 7:7), and was mourned by all Israel for thirty days.
And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount.
And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.